Monday, 7 January 2008

Coptic Christmas

In the Coptic Orthodox religion Christmas takes place on the 29th of "Kiahk" (a Coptic month), which is equivalent to the 7th of January. Here's the Wikipedia explanation of the dissonance between the two dates:

Until the 16th century, 25 December coincided with 29 Koiak of the Coptic calendar. However, upon the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582, December 25 shifted 10 days earlier in comparison with the Julian and Coptic calendars and a further day each time the Gregorian calendar drops a leap day. This is the reason why Old-Calendrists (using the Julian and Coptic calendars) presently celebrate Christmas on January 7, 13 days after the New-Calendrists (using the Gregorian calendar), who celebrate Christmas on December 25.
The day has been a holiday for all Egyptians for the last four years.
I put together a site with some photographs from my 2006 visit to St Antony's and St Paul's Monasteries, if of interest, at
There are a couple of interesting articles on Al Ahram Weekly about Coptic Christmas. The photo was taken at St Antony's Monastery in the Eastern Desert, a once self-contained fortified village, which is now supplied from the outside world and receives visitors, but, like its neighbour, the Monastery of St Paul the Anchorite retains a very personal and intimate air.
From 2003:
For the first time ever, 7 January is expected to be a quiet, traffic- free day on the streets throughout Egypt. President Hosni Mubarak has announced that Coptic Christmas -- which falls at the end of the first week of the year -- will be a national holiday for all Egyptians -- not just Copts. Until the president issued his decree, Copts were entitled to take the day off, but otherwise it was business as usual.
From 2006:
Gamal Nkrumah assesses the coincidence of two Christmases, New Year's Eve and Eid Al-Adha, all occurring within the space of barely three weeks.
From 2006:
A Cairene family tells Hicham Safieddine why the New Year holiday season will never upstage the thrill of Coptic Christmas
From 2007:
On Coptic Christmas, Mohamed Wassim turned his lens to the Monastery of Saint Paul. Located in the Eastern Desert, Saint Paul Monastery remains one of the most popular in Egypt, attracting a regular horde of visitors tempted as much by the desert journey as by the architectural and spiritual experience. There is also an article on the Tour Egypt website which gives a good overview of Coptic Chrismas, and how it is celebrated.

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